What could make yoga even better? Baby goats, of course

12:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 Lifestyle

Baby goats make everything better.

They especially make yoga better, because nothing — not rose-colored sunglasses, not cooing nieces and nephews, not even breakfast tacos — compares to the feeling of a month-old, softly bleating baby goat with hooves the size of peanut butter cups climbing on your back while you’re nailing the perfect downward dog.

You’ve probably dreamed about practicing yoga alongside frolicking pint-size goats after watching videos shared by goat yoga practitioners around the world. Rachael Phillips of Austin noticed those posts, too. In September, she teamed up with her boyfriend’s mother, Roxie Banker, co-owner of 2 Crazy Goat Ladies in Hamilton, to launch Goga Goat Yoga.

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A baby goat moves jumps off a participant of Goga, goat yoga, in downtown Austin, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.(Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Banker raises and sells pygmy Nigerian goats (for pets, not cabrito). She pampers the bouncy little offspring by bottle-feeding them, cuddling them and letting them roam indoors. And lately, she loads them up each weekend and delivers them to the rooftop of the Pressler parking garage off Fifth Street, where she settles them inside a cedar-chip-lined pen where they nibble hay between yoga sessions. (Phillips is looking for a more permanent location to hold the classes.)

Austin, it seems, needs goat yoga. The classes instantly became a sensation; every class so far has sold out within 24 hours. A 45-minute beginner session, led by one of a rotating cast of certified yoga instructors, costs $30. Classes are capped at 40 participants.

“Austin’s the perfect city for it,” Phillips says.

As class begins, Banker releases eight goats to wander among the yogis. The animals grow to a maximum weight of 40 pounds, but the babies are much lighter. They’re affectionate, too.

“The longer and stronger you hold a pose, the more the goats will stay on you,” Phillips tells the students as they warm up.

Stephen Spillman/For the American-Statesman
Baby goats gather on Brandon Hormuth during Goga, goat yoga, in downtown Austin, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.(Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Baby goats sometimes pick favorites. Today they latch onto Brandon Hormuth, a 21-year-old University of Texas student. At one point, five of eight baby goats strolling among the students clamber aboard him, one bedding down for a snooze while the rest teeter up and across his body like it’s a piece of playground equipment.

“I felt like the goat whisperer,” Hormuth says. “I really don’t know why. I guess I just attract goats.”

That’s just the beginning. Goat yoga isn’t quite the meditative experience that other classes provide. There’s too much chance for disruption, between the occasional clattering of hooves, chuckling of participants and baaing of critters.

“It just peed,” someone giggles as the students strike warrior pose. A murmur arises, and an assistant armed with a paper towel and a bottle of sanitizing spray dashes out. The mess disappears quickly, and a tiny goat wearing a pink-fringed bandanna sashays away, unperturbed.

Stephen Spillman/For the American-Statesman
A baby goat stands on Elizabeth Kirkpatrick during Goga, goat yoga, in downtown Austin, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.(Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

A goat with a sparkle-bedecked purple ruffle around its neck chews on a long blond ponytail. Another nibbles the shirt of a yogi. One licks a water bottle. And one unrepentant, foot-tall baby goat deposits a pile of goat droppings on a yoga mat.

That’s all part of the experience, which leaves some participants, like Hormuth, wanting more goats in his life. “It’s pretty relaxing, especially after a stressful week at school,” he says. “It makes me want a goat, but I don’t know if I could fit one in my apartment.”

Maura Tibbs, 32, who led a recent class, agreed that the goats add to the yoga experience.

“Sometimes we can take yoga a little too seriously, and goats add an element of lightness and fun to the practice,” she says. “I used to be a little too obsessed with alignment, and though those things are important, you kind of come to yoga to find balance in life.”

Stephen Spillman/For the American-Statesman
Baby goats play with each other during Goga, goat yoga, in downtown Austin, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.(Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

It’s a good reminder that you can do yoga anywhere, even if goat kids, or children, or dogs are running around. “You can find peace on the mat,” Tibbs says.

Peace, and maybe a goat dropping or two.

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